A Prophet with No God

Posted July 08, 2016 in In America

I’m struggling to deal with the thoughts and feelings I’m having today, both in response to the numerous tragedies and wrongful deaths that have occurred across the nation in the last 48ish hours, and in response to the responses I have seen to all of them. For all my bravery in speaking truth despite consequences over the past couple of years, I find myself looking over a precipice that I don’t think I’m willing to cross. Not yet, anyway. There’s too much, of too much value to me, that I might lose if I did.

Even as I hear the masses applaud me from the background for keeping up this genteel facade, I am shocked by myself and filled with self-loathing. We can be better, or so I say, but now *I* am the one who knows what is right and does nothing. I am acutely aware that this means I am participating in the very evil which I claim to despise. The self-loathing grows, and yet, I find myself not ready for the martyrdom that would result. This cowardice is new to me. And so I learn just a little bit more about who I really am. Yes, I too am a hypocrite. Welcome to the human race, Jason.

In the Old Testament stories of prophets, or those who were said to speak for Yahweh, they over and over again were commanded to speak truth in the face of dire consequences. They were often afraid, and sometimes rejected their “calling” and tried to run away. But in the stories, Yahweh always got his man – by supernatural interference, if necessary. I have identified with these characters all of my life (and still do, despite the fact that I no longer believe the stories to be true). I have always seen myself as a person who shines light in dark places, and have been willing to face the consequences.

Not today though. Not today.

May my great-great grandchildren forgive me for my weakness. I’m sorry. The cost is just too high.

In Defense of the FBI and Hillary Clinton

Posted July 06, 2016 in Politics

Full disclosure: I was, and am, a Bernie Sanders fan. I was secretly hoping that the FBI investigation was going to result in an indictment, and that the Democrat superdelegates would switch allegiance en masse and support Bernie for the nomination. It would have been a fairy tale ending of epic proportions, with the character many have framed as the evil queen finally vanquished for her misdeeds. But, it didn’t happen that way, and many of my friends on both sides of the political spectrum are flipping out about it. “But, the rule of law!” they say. “Another example of a corrupt system!” say others. And on it goes.

Y’all need to calm the f*** down. And in this blog post, I’m going to try to help you do just that, and explain why – based on the evidence presented by the FBI – an indictment would have been the wrong thing to do.

Continue reading In Defense of the FBI and Hillary Clinton

Kid Strategies: Know Your Players

Posted May 26, 2016 in Atheist Life

“Know your players” is a phrase I first heard in context of team building in a business environment. The idea was to reject the notion that all individuals who held a certain job title were alike, learn the individuals on your team, assign them work that matched their individual strengths, and motivate them in ways that aligned with their personalities. In a corporate environment, I applied this mindset in any number of ways. Take for example, 1 on 1 scheduling: on one team, I had individuals that desired daily interaction, bi-weekly, weekly, every other week, and once per quarter. (There were only six people on the team at that time…) Some of them wanted predictable, stable assignments with clear success criteria, others craved the ability to express creativity and do deep-dive experimental research. I could go on and on about the different personalities. Interestingly, they all held the same job title, yet I would say no more than two of them were doing anything similar at the same time. Figuring out the individual personalities and positioning and supporting them in a way that maximized their natural drives and skill sets made us a highly effective team.

The same thinking set applies to how you raise your kids. Every kid is different, and there are very few strategies for motivating the right behaviors and habits that work the same way across any two of them. The key is to become a student of your child’s personality, interests, and skill set, and then use this knowledge to leverage the best possible outcomes. Here’s one example of how that applied with our daughter.

Continue reading Kid Strategies: Know Your Players

Kid Strategies: Growth vs. Comfort

Posted May 19, 2016 in Atheist Life

If you have met my son and know our story, you know that he is a one-in-a-million success story in terms of someone who has overcome most of the effects of a relatively severe Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis at a young age. When he was younger, I wrote a strategy book on how we had gone from severely affected kiddo at age two to having him in a mainstream classroom (albeit with heavy support and teachers with unending patience) by age five. The next six years were still very rough going, and there were a couple of them where – if I’m being honest – I was concerned that we would never reach the goal of complete social integration, unsupported education environments, and long-term strategic thinking. I am happy to report today that my concerns were overblown. Today my son no longer has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), nor is he in any special classes to address deficits related to autism. We still have some minor things to work on – and likely always will – but there is no reason to believe he will not live a happy, successful, independent life. If you knew him when he was younger, you’d know how powerful that statement is coming from me.

How did we get here? Undoubtedly, my son had the intellect to be able to work through his issues, but being smart can cut both ways. It also made it harder for us to outmaneuver him during critical stages. There were innumerable strategic moments that got us to this successful place, but only a few persistent themes in how we have raised him that undoubtedly made the difference in how he approaches the world. I firmly believe these parenting tactics are what make *any* child successful, whether they have a disability or not. As such, I am sharing them with you, in hopes they make you think and perhaps you’ll find them helpful. Continue reading Kid Strategies: Growth vs. Comfort

Kid Strategies: The Pros and Cons of Taking Them to Church

Posted April 30, 2016 in Atheist Life

A tremendous amount of social pressure exists to have kids, and especially younger kids, in church. There are social costs for not doing what everyone else in your family/community is doing with regards to religious indoctrination of your children. In fairness, it’s not all bad either. I have a lot of great memories of church involvement as a kid and teen, and fully recognize the positive impacts it had on my personal growth and development. That said, today I also realize that I grew up with a lot of negative emotional baggage that I have had to work through (and in some cases, am still working through). In taking my kids to church when they were younger, I passed a lot of that – both good and bad – on to them. Understanding the benefits and costs of these decisions today, I sometimes look back and wonder what I might do differently if my kids were younger. As such, let’s dive into the benefits and costs of taking kids to church, and see if there’s not a way to get those benefits without the costs.

Continue reading Kid Strategies: The Pros and Cons of Taking Them to Church

Taking Risks: Think Like a Venture Capitalist

Posted April 25, 2016 in Atheist Life

In my last post I talked about how a willingness to fail had enhanced my marriage relationship. In truth, most of the successes that I have experienced in life have been at least partially based in my willingness to take risks and fail. The secret, I believe, is to think like a venture capitalist (VC) when it comes to taking risks, and in this blog post, we’ll look at that particularly in terms of career and education choices.

If you’re unfamiliar with the world of venture capitalism, here’s a very generalized summary of the business: make investments, knowing that most of them will fail. If a VC makes investments in 20 companies, 6 to 8 of them are going to end up in bankruptcy, meaning the entire investment will be lost. Out of the remainder, all but one of them are going to underperform – potentially losing money, breaking even, or not making nearly enough to have justified the investment risk. Out of those 20 investments, only one of them is likely to succeed. If you look at it on the surface, 95% failure makes being a VC look like a bad business model.

And yet, VCs tend to make lots and lots of money because that one that hits pays for all of the failures multiple times over. Continue reading Taking Risks: Think Like a Venture Capitalist

Taking Risks: Why Willingness to Fail Matters

Posted April 20, 2016 in Atheist Life

By nearly every account, other than a lingering weight problem and related health effects, I consider my life to be a success. I have a happy, successful marriage of more than 20 years to a woman that I continue to be deeply and madly in love with. I have two amazing children who are destined for successful lives of their own. I have a fantastic (if often hectic) career, amazing working conditions, and income that allows me to do a lot of fun things and support a lot of people and causes that I care about. I live a life that in most ways far surpasses what I thought would be possible as a *very* socially awkward kid growing up in *very* small-town, southern Missouri. It’s hard to imagine being more content with life.

As a habit, I sometimes take time to stop and look back on the events and decisions that got me to where I am today. If I’m honest, there’s a fair bit of plain dumb luck involved – there were many critical moments in which my life could have taken a downward turn if just one circumstance had changed. But there is also a good deal of strategic thinking that started as a young person and continues to be honed to this day that helped position me for success when opportunities emerged. To the extent that I think my thinking sets and actions had any effect on my life outcomes, I wanted to write a short series that put them out there, and hopefully challenge you to examine your own habits and behaviors and determine whether they are getting you where you want to go in life in all areas. In this first entry, I want to talk about the importance of being willing to fail, and for the first example, I want to talk about the marriage relationship.

Continue reading Taking Risks: Why Willingness to Fail Matters

No Longer “Feeling the Bern” (But Still Voting for Him)

Posted February 26, 2016 in Politics

I guess this is just my week for retractions.

Today I received an email asking for money for the Bernie Sanders campaign. I have donated before, and frankly, if he had performed well enough on Super Tuesday to show viability, I was planning to donate again. However, in an attempt to create fear and separate himself from Hillary, Bernie’s email made the following statement:

People who live near fracking locations no longer have drinkable water, and in some cases their tap water is actually flammable.

I really, really wish he had not said that. Continue reading No Longer “Feeling the Bern” (But Still Voting for Him)

EDIT: NOT My Last Hair Saloon for Men Haircut

Posted February 23, 2016 in Atheist Life

UPDATE: A few hours after writing this and sending a note to the Hair Saloon for Men general contact email, I got the following reply from Tom Twellman, the Founder and CEO of the company (copied here with his permission). I couldn’t be happier – his response was perfect! I am officially back to being a Hair Saloon for Men customer. :) And I think it’s just as important to highlight when a company does right as it is to let them know when things have been done wrong. Hooray! And I hope this turns into a teachable moment across all of their stores.

Jason:

In regards to your visit this morning, our manager was completely out of line and I can assure you, she did not properly represent our company policy.

Our company policy stated, very simply, is that we service everyone who walks through our doors.  We have several female customers and the consultation before the service determines the pricing structure for their service…typically requiring more time and detail and thereby a higher price.  In addition, since we are not equipped or trained for women haircuts most female customers don’t trust us to provide the service. (my wife won’t even come in for a trim)

Hair Saloon was founded in 1997 due to my frustration with the industries’ “unisex solution” as traditional barbershops were closing.  Men deserved a better experience and we strive to deliver on that promise every day.  As a long-time customer of Hair Saloon, I hope you will reconsider and continue to enjoy the experience and comfort of Hair Saloon.

If you have any other questions or concerns, I would be happy to address them.

With confidence,

Tom
Founder and CEO

Continue reading EDIT: NOT My Last Hair Saloon for Men Haircut

To Life

Posted February 16, 2016 in Misc

The following is a poem I first encountered some 15 years ago, a photocopy of a newspaper clipping taped to the wall of a library. Over the years it has popped into mind from time to time but I have never been able to find it – until now, in the age of digital scanning and text recognition.

The author is Richard Wightman who evidently wrote several times for Success Magazine in the early 1900’s (you can find more of his writings via the Library of Congress). Wightman was an interesting fellow. In 1913 he was married to Patricia Margaret Street by a Unitarian pastor, Rev. Loren MacDonald. Wightman was a Christian, though both his writings and his choice of a Unitarian pastor show him to be somewhat progressive, especially for his time. He was also attracted to the profound more than the frivolous. For instance, Richard and Patricia were married at the grave site of Ralph Waldo Emerson, their ceremony held in Sleepy Hollow cemetery as a show of their mutual appreciation for the poet.

Below is one of Wightman’s writings, the poem I first saw 15 years ago. I found a copy in the April 9, 1910 edition of The Deseret News, a Utah newspaper. It was originally printed in Success Magazine.

Title Unknown

To lift, athirst, the brimming Glass of life and drain it, dregs and all, with smack of smiling lip and slap of knee;

To bend above the Stream of Trade and wrest from it my gold, clean-handed, zestfully, as one who takes equivalents – not more – for what he gives;

To hear, attent, the silent cry of those who lack, dividing food and faggots and the couraged word;

To look well to my sowing, knowing sure that each small seed, by law Immutable, begets its kind – and multiplied at that;

To shrine my Woman high and touch her flesh with prayer as well as passion;

To find within the eyes of children that fine light which guides the man to simpler ways again and nestles him within the arms of this old earth’s vast motherhood;

To search for peace within the lily-bell or ‘neath the verdant moss by forest ways, and, searching, find a fuller mere than e’er was dreamed or guessed;

To hail my friend with frankness-palm to palm and eye to eye, with merge of heart and hope until we twain are one and gianted for battle.

To think things out in my own way and blast a doctrine, when it bars my path, with reverent ruthlessness.

To take my God wherever I may find him – in the meetinghouse or in the meadow, or where the liners cleave the crests and fling their foam afar

To know that Jesus lived for me to show me how to live, and died for me to show me how to die, should they assail my truth as they did his;

To hold that love is lawful, all of it, or else it be not love, but something less;

That, sirs, seems good to me and right and fair, and by the grace of each day’s sun, and verve of starry nights, I face my years with glee as one who dies not, but lives always.

By Richard Wightman